Archive

Posts Tagged ‘David Stern’

David Stern, Chris Paul, and the Big Market-Small Market Conundrum…

December 13, 2011 Leave a comment

It’s easy to get caught up in the hysteria of this hyper compressed NBA offseason; after all, in less than a week we’ve had Chris Paul traded to the Lakers, Chris Paul not traded to the Lakers, Chris Paul possibly almost traded to the Lakers again, the Lakers trading Lamar Odom to Dallas and thus ensuring that Chris Paul will not be traded to the Lakers, Chris Paul about to be traded to the Clippers, Chris Paul not about to be traded to the Clippers, Chris Paul about to be traded to the Clippers is still possible, and, as of this morning, the Clippers no longer pursuing Chris Paul about to be traded to the Clippers.  It’s exhausting.  And, frankly, if you’re a fan of Chris Paul’s Hornets, it’s probably a little nauseating.  While it feels like something HAS to happen with the Chris Paul hysteria this second, in reality there are still several months for the Hornets brass to gather and sift through trade offers.

At least that would be the case if it were Hornet officials who were actually in charge of deciding the future of Chris Paul.  Instead that luxury seems to fall to David Stern.  Proving himself to be a hands-on owner in the mold of Michael Heisley, Stern has inserted himself front and center in the Paul circus.  Reports of possible trade scenarios no longer begin with, “New Orleans GM Dell Demps is asking for…” but rather begin with, “the NBA front Office is asking for…” And what should be frightening to fans of the Hornets, well besides the thought that former Grizzlies GM Stu Jackson is leading negotiations for Stern, is that the price being demanded by the league is so exorbitant, that nobody can meet it.  That might be fine if there were a chance the Hornets could resign Paul this summer, but there isn’t.  He’s gone.  So, the best thing the franchise can do, is make a good trade and get back some pieces in exchange for their departing superstar.

The first trade that Demps lined up would have been a good deal, it would have kept the team competitive and in contention for a playoff spot.  The league nixed it, ostensibly because it didn’t include enough young talent, but in reality becuase it involved sending a big star to a major market immediately after the end of a lockout theoretically about restricting the ability of the big market teams to poach all the big stars.  Now, the problem is that Stern was so widely lampooned for turning that deal down, he has to actually kill in whatever trade the Hornets accept.  So, instead of approving a realistic and good offer from the Clippers – one that probably had more upside than the Lakers deal, although a dimmer immediate future – the NBA just keeps asking for more and more and more…

I think they’ll find a deal, and I think they’ll find a deal this week, but the longer this stretches on, the uglier it potentially gets.  What I still don’t understand, is how sending Paul to the Clippers is not sending him to a large market, when last I checked they play in the same building – let alone market – as the team that Dan Gilbert went apocalyptic about acquiring Paul.

This underscores what I mentioned the other day, that the large market-small market thing is really just a red herring.  What this is actually about is protecting the incompentent organisations from losing the talent that came to them through the fluke of the draft.  Take the five most notorious examples from the past two years:

  • LeBron James
  • Chris Bosh (and yes, we can quibble over him, but the Raptors thought of him as a franchise guy)
  • Carmelo Anthony
  • Dwight Howard
  • Chris Paul

Now, the only thing that their organisations did to “deserve” them, was be shitty enough to earn a pick in the top 4 of the NBA draft.  That’s how they earned these guys, so lets not make it out like these desperate small market teams have scoured the earth, found these rare looking lumps of coal and sat on them for 90 years until they became top ten basketball players.  No, they were crappy organisations, who were lucky enough to get a top pick in a good year (versus say in a year when Kwame Brown or Andrea Bargnani is the top prospect).  This sense of entitlement that Gilbert and the “small market” owners have to these players is misplaced and slightly asinine.

Then there’s the whole defecting the small market for the large market problem, which of course wasn’t a problem until last year.  But can we look closer at this problem?  What do all five of those teams have in common?  With the possible exception of Denver, outside of their superstar, they suck.  Not like, oh we’re probably not winning a title this year, but outright we might not win 20 games suck.  The year Michael Jordan retired from the Bulls (the first time), they still won 55 games.  How could they do that when they lost thier superstar?  Well, they still had Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, Steve Kerr, Toni Kukoc, and Phil Jackson stalking the sideline.  In other words, they’d actually, you know, assmebled good players around their superstar.

Last year, after LeBron left the Cavs, they surged all the way to 19 wins.  The Raptors?  Well they just tore through the league, on their way to 22 wins.  Don’t tell me that the Cavs and Raps had put good players around their stars.  And then there’s Orlando.  Look at some of the moves made by Orlando GM Otis Smith over the last five years in an attempt to build a winner around his Superman.  You tell me which one you looked at, the day it was announced, and thought, “wow, that’s a great deal for the Magic.”

  • 2007 – Signed free agent Rashard Lewis to massive 118.2 million – 6 year contract.
  • 2007 – Signed restricted free agent Jameer Nelson to 35 million – 5 year contract.
  • 2007 – Traded Trever Ariza to the LA Lakers for Brian Cook and Maurice Evans.
  • 2009 – After making the NBA finals, allowed Hedo Turkoglu to leave via free agency and instead used that space to trade Courtney Lee, Rafer Alston, and Tony Battie to New Jersey for Vince Carter.
  • 2010 – Signed backup to your backups, backup Chris Duhon to a 15 million four year deal.
  • 2010 – Signed the ghost of Quentin Richardson for 7.5 million over three years.
  • 2010 – Traded Rashard Lewis’ bloated contract to the Washington Wizards for Gilbert “The Gun-toting Clown” Areans’ bloated contract.  This might have been a lateral move, except of course that Arenas has an extra year and 20 million on his deal (since amnestied).
  • 2010 – Tried to make up for the mistake of two years ago, by trading Marcin Gortat, Vince Carter, and Mkael Pietrus to Phoenix for Jason Richardson, Earl Clark, and the bloated, stubbed out cigarette remains of Hedo Turkoglu.

None, right?  And it’s not like I’m some master talent evaluator, I can barely find matching socks in the morning.  No, these were just blatantly bad deals from the get go.  What the Cavs and Magic did, was make it rain like Patrick Ewing at the Gold Club, assuming that giving large contracts to middling talent – or fading talent – was the same thing as building a championship squad around your star.  For all of their current cries of being “small markets,” each has had a payroll in excess of 90 million in the past five years.  That’s New York Knicks territory.

So, the problem arose, not because they weren’t able to spend, but because they weren’t able to spend intelligently.  Thus, their star wanted out.  It’s not like big markets don’t have the same problems.  At the start of the 2007 season Kobe Bryant famously demanded to be traded, and he was a phone call away from being shipped off to Chicago.  Instead the Lakers fleeced (sort of) the Grizzlies in a deal for Pau Gasol and well, you know the rest.  Did the Lakers keep Kobe because they’re a big market?  No, they kept Kobe because they made a smart move to surround him with a top fifteen talent.  And yes, it helps when you’re trying to stop your star from leaving if you can find Chris Wallace to trade with, but…

On the reverse side of the coin, you have three small market teams that managed to keep their stars: San Antonio, Portland, and Oklahoma City.  Tim Duncan’s obviously the poster boy of staying with a small market team and small market whiners say that he’s a special case, but why?  He was courted as a free agent and he chose to stay with the Spurs, because they’re a wicked smart organization that gave him the best chance to keep winning titles.  Pretty simple really; perhaps if they’d surrounded him with the likes of Mo Williams and Anthony Parker instead of Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, maybe TD leaves for the big money deal offered to him by – gasp – the Orlando Magic.

Kevin Durant, well the press has made him out to be the anti-LeBron because he re-signed with the Zombie Sonics last year, but that’s unfair to both guys and, frankly, just a lazy narrative.  First, LeBron re-signed his first time up too, and second if Durant’s team wasn’t being run by Sam Presti, he might have made a different choice.  The point is that he’s on a team with Russel Westbrook, James Harden, Serge Ibaka, Eric Maynor, and Kendrick Perkins.  Plus, the Zombies haven’t destroyed their cap structure to assemble that talent.  So, Durant stays because there’s something worth staying for.

Finally, three years ago, before his knees when tits up, when Brandon Roy was a free agent, he didn’t flee Portland for a larger market, why?  Because they were young, they were talented and they were building something (and sure it’s since come crashing down, but despite that they to win 48 games last year with their best player a shell of his former self).  Now, you could counter that Roy wasn’t a superstar, and maybe he wasn’t in name recognition, but between 2007 and 2009 he was better than Carmelo or Bosh.  So, even if his name lacked the cache of those other guys, there were plenty of smart GMs who would’ve loved signing him.

To say that those five superstars left their teams because they’re small markets misses the point – especially as Miami is a mid-market franchise, albeit in a desirable location.  It wasn’t the size of the market, but rather stupid team management that led to the superstar wanting to leave. I’m sorry Minnesota, Sacramento, Washington, Cleveland, and whoever else is crying poor, but it’s true.  If you want to compete with the Lakers, you need to be smarter than them (given that mind boggling Lamar Odom trade this really shouldn’t be that hard)

Which brings us back to the Hornets, who were a second round playoff team last year.  Now, admitedly they just lost thier second best palyer as well, but if they lose Paul for nothing, how many games do you think they’d win next year?  15? 18? 22?  It’d be Charles Dickens bleak.  The Hornets Paul problem isn’t because they’re a small market, and it’s not because New Orleans isn’t a desirable place to live – it’s New Orleans for f***s sake – it’s because Paul watched the team sign a washed up Peja Stojakovic, trade away Tyson Chandler twice, and acquire freaking Willie Green.  They were poorly run and then bought by the league.  What’s the upside of hanging around for more?

All of which makes this Paul trade the most important deal in Hornets franchise history.  So, I can understand Stern holding out for a great deal, what I can’t understand is having Stu Jackson negotiate that deal.  That’s the sort of bush-league move that a small market team makes…

The Trade that Wasn’t, or How David Stern stepped in Poop..

December 9, 2011 Leave a comment

Oh the NBA, how I missed you.  I mean, even when you somehow manage to salvage the negative publicity of a lost season, you still manage to shoot yourself in the foot with an audaciously absurd and stupid move to cancel the proposed trade of Chris Paul to the Lakers.  I get it, really, I do… your ownership group almost sabotaged the season on the pre-text that you wanted to implement competitive balance (which is a bit of a red herring anyhow, but that’s another story, for another day…), when in reality what you actually wanted was to ensure as much money in your pockets as possible.

Now, basically minutes after the deal was ratified, the team that you collectively own – in a small market – is trying to send its best player to basically your league’s biggest market (in terms of combined size and success).  If you let it pass, then your rhetoric about small market teams is shown to be what it was: bullshit.  So, I can see how the knee jerk reaction is to torpedo the deal – especially when you have this moron sending subversive emails.

On the other hand, this actually was a good deal for the Hornets (not to mention the Rockets), and – despite picking up one of the top five players in the league – an odd trade for the Lakers.  I don’t know that I’d go quite as far as ESPNs John Hollinger in trashing it (insider), but he’s right that leaving your team with only the unrelaible Andrew Bynum as a big man is a huge mistake.  Now, maybe the Lakers were going to swap Bynum for Orlando’s Howard, but if the Magic were going for that, then the league has bigger problems than this Paul deal.

An even greater mistake is the league stepping in to sabotage the deal for “basketball reasons.”  Honestly, I don’t even know what basketball reasons are, and if you follow any NBA writers on twitter, neither does anyone else.  It’s like David Stern just stepped in a flaming bag of poop on his front stoop, only he’s the one who put the bag there.  I’ve argued in the past that Stern, while one of the three greatest sports commissioners of all time, desperately needs to step down and I think that the last five months only compound that fact.  The best example of this was a tweet yesterday (that I can no longer find, so I apologize to the author) that compared the damage done in the last two years by Stern to his legacy to a certain narcissistic indecisive, self photographing football player.

Stern’s league now has three teams grieving the cancellation of a perfectly legal – and legitimate – trade, another team accusing a fifth team of tampering and a sixth team whose owner cannot stop sounding like an ungrateful and petulant toddler when his toy was taken away.  Worst of all?  None of these shenanigans involve Donald Sterling – which should serve to remind Stern of the words of wisdom from the great philosopher Calvin, “That’s one of the remarkable things about life.  It’s never so bad that it can’t get worse.”

Ah Calvin – the 6 year, not the protestant – always there to remind us of the salient points in life.  The NBA looks pretty stupid right now, but hey, it can always get worse!

Oh NBA, I missed you.

Rick Welts and the Road Less Travelled…

May 16, 2011 Leave a comment

After almost two years of residing permanently on my left ring finger – surviving through every sloppy burger, every time the dishes were done, every time I worked in the garden – my wedding ring has transformed from the smooth, glistening white-gold band it was in its youth, to a tarnished and scratched bronzed-silver relic.  So yesterday, with nothing better to do on a Sunday morning that felt much more like February than May, my wife and I took my ring back to the store from which it came to get it re-dipped.

It was a simple enough procedure: I gave them the ring, they gave me a receipt, we went on our way.  Yet, an hour later, as we sat at lunch, my wife could tell I was upset by something.  I was fidgeting, I was distracted, I was… missing my ring.  It’s not just that in two years I had grown used to the feel of it against my skin, it’s that I liked what it was: a symbol of my marriage and the woman I love.

I’m proud of my marriage; I love my partner; I love the lives we have and the lives we are building.  I want people to look at me and know that I am married, even if they cannot see my wife.  So it is that I sympathize with the difficult decision made by Phoenix Suns’ executive Rick Welts this week, when he contacted a newspaper reporter to declare that he is gay.

I make a very conscious effort with this blog to avoid the overt morality that is often engendered in sports.  In general, I believe that my morality is my own and I have neither the desire, nor the wherewithal to proselytize my readers.  Yet on this topic, I feel the need to pull the old soapbox out of the garage and climb up.  Put simply, Rick Welts has every right to live his life as I do.  He has every right to wear a ring on his finger that proclaims his love of another human being, whether that human be man or woman.

If we have learned anything over the last 15 years – from OJ, to steroids in baseball, to Kobe in Colorado, to Tiger’s Thanksgiving accident – it’s that athletes are not super heroes, nor are they worthy of a pedestal.  They are human beings, fraught with all the foibles that engulf the rest of us.  Yet, the decision of Welts, which is some corners might be deemed a choice of morality, is a watershed, heroic moment.  Not Jackie Robinson taking the field against the Braves, but important nonetheless.

Sports remains one of the last barriers to be broken down by a world increasingly accepting of homosexuals.  As NBA commissioner David Stern says of his conversation with Welts,

What I didn’t say at the time was: I think there’s a good chance the world will find this unremarkable,” Stern told The Times. “I don’t know if I was confusing my thoughts with my hopes.

The world may well find it unremarkable, and I certainly hope that they do, but that doesn’t make the challenge of coming out any less daunting for Welts.  He works in a field of overt masculinity.  A world in which manhood is constantly being defined, challenged, and postulated upon.  Yet, somehow, it is often in the places of outward masculinity that true manhood is hardest to discover.  Where insecurity over the sexuality of another still exists and people become discomfited by a man who wants nothing more than to be open about his life.

And why shouldn’t Welts be able to stand openly with a partner whom he loves?  Why is it that some people still believe there is inherent evil in homosexuality?  How have we not yet moved beyond that?  How do we still believe that being straight is a choice that can be made?  It is far too easy to look at someone else and tell them that what they are doing is wrong; to say that their life is immoral, their feelings fallacious, their needs specious.  As a culture, we would benefit from more people looking introspectively, asking themselves hard questions about who they are, how they live their life, and what they do to improve our world.  These are the questions that Rick Welts has surely asked himself over the past few weeks, months(?), years(?).

The answers that Welts has chosen from those introspective conversations, is that he wants to live openly, to help other young gay men or women find their way in sports, and to help the conversation of homosexuality in (male) sports become part of the public discourse.  It is a long, lonely road to trudge, yet Welts is in many ways in the perfect position to make this first step.

He plays for an owner who has already shown fortitude to take a public political stand, even if it is a controversial one.  His team’s coach is comfortable with his sexuality,

To me, what does it matter? I know he’s great at his job; he’s very organized and he does a brilliant job. To me, [his sexuality] is irrelevant.

“I’m happy for Rick because I think it takes a ton of weight off his shoulders,” Gentry added. “I’m glad for him because it puts him in a more relaxed state. Do I look at him any differently or judge him any differently? Not in a million years. I’ve dealt with Rick for the last seven years and he’s a great CEO and a great person.

And the franchise’s star player is far from your stereotypical jock.  Steve Nash doesn’t have a problem with Welts’ orientation,

Anyone who’s not ready for this needs to catch up,” Nash said. “He’s doing anyone who’s not ready for this a favor.

Well said, and to the point.  Welts is doing everyone a favor, by making his life the sledgehammer that takes the first real swing at the wall built around sexuality in men’s sports.  As we slowly move towards a culture in which gay men and women may marry whomever they like, splintering one of the last strongholds of intolerance is imperative.

Of course, Welts is not an active player and that remains an obtrusive barrier yet to be broken.  It seems to me, that within the next few years, an active male professional will come out of the closet and he will have been helped to do so, whether directly or indirectly, by Rick Welts.  And one day soon thereafter, another player will come out, and then another, and another, and soon nobody will care.  And why should they?

I fidget uncomfortably not being able to wear a ring that symbolizes my marriage, I cannot imagine the pain that exists when you have to hide that relationship entirely. Thanks to Rick Welts, hopefully one day soon, athletes who are gay will not be forced to hide their own wedding rings, but will be able to wear them as I do; a glistening, white-gold symbol of their love.

David Stern and Phil Jackson in a pissing contest…

April 24, 2010 Leave a comment

Daivd Stern doesn’t like NBA coaches criticizing his officials. Phil Jackson loves criticizing NBA refs. Well, you can see where this is going can’t you?

Stern:

I wish I had it to do all over again and, starting 20 years ago, I’d be suspending Phil and Pat Riley for all the games they play in the media,” Stern said in a press conference at the Ford Center moments before Game 3 of the Lakers-Thunder series. “You guys know that our referees go out there and knock themselves out to do the best job they can, but we’ve got coaches who will do whatever takes to work them publicly. And what that does is erode fan confidence and then you get some of the situations that we have.

Uhmmm… really? I think that scandals in which one of your referees is arrested by the FBI for betting on games erodes fan confidence, but maybe that’s just me.

Jackson:

I think when you start throwing one- and two-game suspensions in the threats, I think that means a lot to both ball clubs and coaches,” Jackson said at Lakers practice. “It seems awful heavy-handed to me, but David is one who isn’t shy about being heavy-handed.

Yup, David has long wielded a big iron fist and it seems to be getting harder. I don’t think that there can be any debate that Stern is one of the greatest commissioners in Sport’s history, but he’s been on the beat for over 25 years. It may be sacrilegious to say of a man who is often described as the smartest in every room he enters, but over the last couple of years, I’ve begun to wonder whether Stern’s best days have past him by. He seems to increasingly lead by bullying and on the issue of refereeing, he’s spraying blame like a blind skunk, while failing to grasp the subtlties of the issue.

If you think the job of an NBA ref is easy, you are a moron. These are giant, freaks of nature out there, playing the game at a pace that you and I on our couch cannot even dream of. To determine whether someone has managed to get all ball, or clipped the wrist, is really easy when you’re watching on TV and someone slows it down for you, but at full speed? With a six-ten, 245 pound monster in front of you? And bodies flying everywhere? That’s freaking hard.

Having said that, NBA officials over the last decade haven’t really done themselves any favors. They’ve had some incredibly brutal days at the office. Bill Simmons, of course, has made a career knocking the officiating of games and he’s hardly alone. Each of the big sports has their own problems with officiating, but the NBA’s are so much more pronounced. In part that’s the legacy of Tim Donaghy, but it’s also because of the NBA’s long history of “star treatment.” Worse, is the growing belief that Stern selects certain refs to ensure favorable outcomes in games and the idea that crowds in hostile arenas can affect calls. Instead of accurately addressing these issues, whenever somebody has the temerity to question his refs Stern just huffs and puffs.

One day, some enterprising young commish is going to realise that to really engender confidence in referees, you have to make them accountable to your audience. I don’t mean releasing them to the wolves, but having them answer questions from a small media contingent would go a long way towards establishing fan confidence in the jobs of referees. We understand that refs are human, well at least those of us with any sort of brain, and that they will make mistakes, but sometimes it would help to hear a referee say, “I made a mistake there. My angle was bad…” Or, it would help to hear their explanations for why they made a call one way over another.

I know, it’s a novel idea, but allowing some – again limited – access to referees would allow fans to consider their mistakes in a human context, rather than a robotic one. More importantly, it removes them from behind the protective iron curtain and creates the appearance of accountability. It might – and I repeat might – even have the affect of making refs more aware and, thus, making them work harder to improve their craft.

Anyhow, back to Jackson and Stern…

Jackson also wanted to clear up his brief meeting with Stern prior to Game 3 at the Ford Center. Stern described it as, “I just came by and said, ‘Hi,’ and he said, ‘I don’t like you today,’ and I said, ‘I like you.'”

We ran into each other in the hallway … I did not say I didn’t like him. I said, ‘I’m not happy with you,’ is what I said and he said, ‘I’m happy with you,'” Jackson explained. “He misquoted the exchange.

Alright boys, calm down. No need to squabble, just whip them out and lets see who can shoot the farthest…

Arne Duncan, David Stern, and a College Hoops Education…

March 20, 2010 Leave a comment

The NCAA tournament always brings a litany of stories relating to education, often in the form of how long NBA prospects should be required to stay in school and occasionally related to the graduation rates of top college basketball programs. This week’s tournament is no different.

On ESPN, two of their NBA columnists are going head to head over the NBAs age restrictions (sorry, requires ESPN Insider), meanwhile early last week the Secretary of Education made headlines by proposing (to the media) that college basketball programs with graduation rates below 40% should be banned from postseason play. Since these issues are on some level related, I’m going to tackle them together, starting with the latter and then tying it back in to the former.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan is a former college basketball player from Harvard, which superficially gives him credibility when he discusses college hoops. He’s using that supposed insider status to attack the institutions whose graduation rates are floundering, which would be fine, except that in doing so, he shows an absurd ignorance about the purpose served by big time college hoops.

Right off the top, I am in no way arguing that education isn’t important, or that collegiate athletics shouldn’t be structured such that athletes have every opportunity to achieve a real education from their talents, but that has very little bearing on the majority of top flight basketball players who attend institutions like Kentucky, Louisville, and Maryland (three of the twelve schools that would be expelled from this year’s tournament under Duncan’s proposal). Most young men who attend these schools are doing so for one reason, to further develop their basketball skills in hopes of landing an extremely profitable career in professional hoops.

That’s their purpose, a basketball education. They aren’t there to earn one of those exceptionally useful History degrees, or to develop their math skills. They are there to develop their post-up game, to impress scouts, to hopefully be drafted to the NBA, but failing that to impress an overseas’ professional league. Is this any different than a world class cellist who attends university and earns a music degree? And what is the purpose of college? Is it the pursuit of academia, or is it to prepare young men and women for future employment? One could easily argue that the problem currently facing many educational institutions is that too many people believe it to be the former, when in reality it is, and should be, the latter.

Top flight college basketball, as opposed to say Ivy League basketball, is all about preparing kids to play professionally. In return for allowing athletes to hone their talents and display their abilities in a highly competitive atmosphere, the schools receive millions of dollars in revenue. This, of course, makes it an absurdly poor deal for the students, but that’s another fight for another day. Some kids earn professional contracts and most don’t, but that doesn’t change the fact that from the athlete’s perspective, that’s the purpose of college. Thus, when considering these graduation rates, Duncan has to include how many students left school to professional jobs in basketball, either nationally or abroad. Otherwise, you’re punishing the schools for doing what they are supposed to do. After all, nobody complains when technology geniuses drop out to pursue millions developing software, creating video games, or online social networking sites.

Then there’s is this, at some point each of these kids makes a choice about whether or not they want to continue their education. While the programs should probably have better support systems in place to ensure that the students have every opportunity to finish their degree, at what point does it stop being the school’s responsibility and become the players’? Without getting too personal, a few years ago I became disenchanted with the university experience and dropped out. While I eventually returned and finished my degree, because my graduation was more than six years after the start of my schooling, the qualifications used in the report that Arne Duncan is basing his proposal upon would not consider me “graduated.” Leaving school was nobody’s decision but my own, and despite the protestations of those authority figures in my life who would have encouraged me to continue with my studies, like Keyser Soze I was gone.

Complicating this problem is the NBA’s age restriction, which forces the very best basketball players in the country to attend one year of post-secondary school before being allowed to graduate to the NBA. This has created the hated “one and done” system. So, what should top college programs do? Ignore these kids who are talented enough to pursue professional employment directly from high school?

If you read my column from Thursday, you know that I have nothing but disdain for John Calipari, but his success is predicated upon the fact that he is upfront with kids about his goals. He wants to produce the very best basketball team every single season, and he believes that the surest way to accomplish this is to have preeminent talent every single season. So, he recruits young men like John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, and Eric Bledsoe. Both coach and player understand from the very beginning that this is a one year relationship. Calipari will teach these kids what he can, promote them as widely as possible, and give them his blessing when the declare for the NBA draft in June. In return, those three gave him a 29 win team that earned a number one seed in the tournament. That’s three guys who will not finish their degree, but who will find six figure employment before virtually every other student enrolled at Kentucky this year.

Duncan’s proposal puts these ‘one and done’ kids into professional limbo. If he is serious about his better than forty percent claims, then he needs to address the NBAs age restrictions. Ten years ago, I would have argued that David Stern was right that the NBA needed an age requirement. Now? With the success of LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and Kevin Garnett, what logical argument is there that allowing high school graduates to turn pro hurts anyone?

Who are the best basketball coaches in the world? Are they the college coaches who routinely flame out in the NBA? Or are they the world class, highly paid coaches employed by NBA teams? The answer, of course, is the latter. The players receive better instruction going pro, especially given the creation of the D-League, which allows NBA teams to send players to a development team for more playing time and closer instruction than they might receive with the big team. By contrast, consider that Duke is probably the top college program of the last twenty years. Yet, despite recruiting top flight talent, winning the majority of their games each season and having the great Mike Krzyzewski as their coach, Blue Devil players have a reputation as being professional busts.

Honestly, was the league worse off for having LeBron James drafted as an 18 year old? Was the league in some way more adversely affected by high schooler Darius Miles flaming out, than say sophomore Stromile Swift? Were the injuries that ruined Jonathan Bender’s career caused because he missed out on the “college experience”? No, no, and no. On the flip side, if Bender had suffered those injuries in college, would David Stern have paid him the roughly 30 million he earned in his star crossed career?

The NBA wants guys to go to college so that they can play at Kentucky for a year (or preferably two), become a star and then join the league. That’s it, that’s the reason. The NBA doesn’t have an age limit to benefit the players, nor to improve the skill level of teams, it has an age limit because it benefits the NBAs marketing machine.

David Stern might give lip service to how forcing athletes to attend two years of college better prepares them mentally to the off court challenges faced by professional players, but come on… Have Garnett, LeBron, TMac, or Jermaine O’Neal been hurt as people by missing college? Hurt financially? From a marketing standpoint? Really? How? Did Allen Iverson learn at Georgetown that excessive gambling was a surefire way to plummet into debt? Yes, Kobe Bryant was accused of sexual assualt, but then Ben Roethlisberger went to college and he’s been similarly accused. Besides, Tiger Woods went to Stanford and last I checked, that didn’t teach him that infidelity was wrong.

Finally, there’s this, Duncan is proposing to ban teams from the tournament whose graduation rates are low, which penalizes the kids who are still in school and could still potentially graduate, as opposed to the kids who failed to graduate. Exactly what purpose does that serve?

%d bloggers like this: